Two employees at Wendy’s in Sedalia were recognized Tuesday morning for their bravery during a tragic fatal vehicle accident at the restaurant last month.
Donavan Dobson, 16, and Preston Carr, 22, were honored by Hamra Enterprises, which owns the Sedalia location, during a small ceremony in the back parking lot of the restaurant. Coworkers, local officials, family and friends were present to help celebrate their efforts in the aftermath of the July 13 crash. Dobson and Carr were presented “Selfless Act of Heroism” plaques that feature the Captain America shield, a letter from Wendy’s corporate office, and a $300 Visa gift card.
Dobson, Carr and Tina Edwards, the manager on duty that night, spoke with the Democrat after the ceremony to recall those intense moments after the crash.
Edwards said she was in the back of the restaurant but had a view of the dining room.
“We heard a sound almost like a tornado, just crashes through there and at first you stop for a minute because you’re like, ‘What?’ And then you look up again and I ran out of the office,” Edwards said. “We dialed 911 and then ran out to the dining room to assess what had happened out there.”
Edwards said she had another manager take all of the employees through the back of the building to the parking lot. She said Dobson was already in the dining room headed for the truck. Carr was helping as well.
“I heard a big crash, I thought someone had just broken one of the windows. Then I heard my manager Tina scream, so I rushed out to see what was going on and I saw a truck was through the Wendy’s and I smelled gas, so I hurdled over some debris to go shut off the truck,” Dobson recalled. “... I checked (the driver) for injuries, he didn’t have anything serious so I got him out of the truck with another gentleman and set him down on a booth.”
Dobson then turned his attention to an injured customer who he said was on the ground in shock. At that point, the Sedalia Fire Department arrived on scene and Dobson offered injury reports.
“I went back to help the gentleman, got him some water, another gentleman helped get the water,” Dobson said. “I saw his kid watching and I didn’t think he should see his dad in pain so I brought him over to the side and started helping with his wounds. … That kid was tough, he didn’t cry once.”
Carr said he had just been in the dining room cleaning and refilling items. He then heard a noise coming and saw the truck come into the building.
“When that happened, I went to go check on customers, asked the manager what she needed me to do, how can I help them out with what happened,” Carr said. “... I noticed one of the customers was in a corner screaming, so I went over to try to calm her down and get her out of the building.”
Sedalia Police officers then took over the scene and Dobson showed firefighters to the restaurant’s breaker box. Dobson said he continued trying to keep everyone calm as officers and firefighters worked the scene.
“Make sure everyone’s all right, don’t let anything happen worse than it already had,” Dobson said of what was going through his head at the time. “I wasn’t really thinking, to be honest.”
Even as Edwards joined the rest of her crew outside to check on them, Dobson and Carr chose to stay inside and continue helping customers.
“I’ve learned from lots of people that you should always help others instead of being stingy and thinking about ourselves, not thinking of others because others are more important than yourself,” Carr said of his decision to help. “I learned that from my parents, my friends, church buddies. I learned that from Tina because when I first started, Tina said it’s possible that bad things could happen here and anything that happens, help others first.
“You should help others out first before you help yourself.”
Both Dobson and Carr were humble about their recognition Tuesday morning and offered thanks to SPD and SFD, but Sedalia Fire Chief Greg Harrell, Sedalia Police Chief Matt Wirt, Sedalia Mayor John Kehde and Hamra Enterprises President and CEO Mike Hamra praised the two during remarks at the ceremony. All four said they were impressed by their bravery and heroism in the face of an emergency.
“Absolutely I’m so proud of those guys,” Edwards said. “... To not even think of themselves and to go help those guys, you couldn’t ask for better kids. All you hear is the bad stuff, and they were willing to take care of other people and not think about what might happen to them when they’re in the building.”
Edwards also recognized the rest of her crew for their assistance after the crash. She said employees helped turn off appliances, directed drive-thru customers through the parking lot, and checked each other for injuries. She said Dobson and Carr jumped into action, but her other employees were also helping behind the scenes, along with support later that night and the weeks following from Wendy’s and Hamra management.
According to SPD Cpl. A.J. Silvey, at 5:58 p.m. Monday, July 13 a pickup truck was traveling south on South Limit Avenue when it suddenly veered east and left the roadway in front of the American Inn, 1217 S. Limit Ave. It traveled through some landscaping and then struck the front of the Wendy’s dining room.
Carol Barnes, 80, was killed and her husband, Donald Barnes, 85, was taken by Life Flight to University Hospital in Columbia. He has since been moved out of critical condition.
Carr was the one to find Carol Barnes and he moved a table and chairs out of the way to check on her until first responders arrived.
Eight people were in the front portion of the dining room when the truck crashed into the restaurant. In addition to Donald Barnes, four other people were injured.
The driver was later identified as 62-year-old Dennis K. Weaver, of Sedalia. He was originally arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, but no charges were filed. Silvey said the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crash Team is assisting the SPD Traffic Unit with the investigation, which is ongoing.